Even the Portadown fans raised a glass — or rather a bottle — of champagne to this vintage performance by Winkie Murphy as the Linfield legend destroyed the Shamrock Park side with an aerial display of rare quality.
Traditionally, the home fans present a magnum of bubbly to the player in red they reckon warrants the ‘Man of the Match’ accolade. But such was their admiration for the Blues’ veteran number five, and his five-star showing, that they didn’t hesitate to honour him on Saturday.
“I really appreciate the gesture,” said Winkie, after sinking the Ports with two thumping headers — he missed a hat-trick by a whisker. And he was quick to praise Niall Quinn who set up his two goals and who forced Ports defender Chris Casement to head home an ‘own goal’ for Linfield’s opener.
“All three came from wicked in-swinging corners by Niall from the right,” said Murphy. “Portadown simply couldn’t deal with them. Obviously, I’d love to have claimed my first-ever hat-trick and placed the match ball on the mantelpiece. Still, I have a promising career ahead, there’s plenty of time!”
Initially, the home announcer credited the Casement faux pas to Murphy, but TV replays showed the true picture and the match ball stayed at Shamrock Park.
The former Linfield man inadvertently opened the scoring on 25 minutes and the Murphy brace came after the interval, 10 minutes from time and in the 87th minute.
In between, Neill McCafferty|(pictured) hammered home a penalty kick after Ryan Henderson inexplicably handled, but the Blueman made amends after the break when an attempted McCafferty clearance ricocheted off referee Raymond Hetherington and fell perfectly for Henderson to blast home from about 10 yards.
“Ryan showed real character in the way he reacted to giving that penalty away,” said Murphy.
“Far from letting his head drop after that inexplicable handball, he went hunting up front and hit our third goal which more or less settled things.”
Portadown scored their second on 93 minutes — but few cared. It came from a cross by Jamie Tomelty and it wasn’t clear whether the head of Garry Breen or Richard Lecky made contact — it was later given to Lecky — with neither man celebrating and the home crowd remained deathly quiet.
Boss Ronnie McFall was furious at the space afforded to Murphy and co as they caused havoc among his disjointed defence. “They simply couldn’t deal with basic set pieces,” he fumed.
“Linfield were given the freedom of the box and Murphy had yards of space to pick his spot.
“It was schoolboy stuff. But the referee’s positional sense for their third goal left a lot to be desired.”
But Blues manager David Jeffrey saw the match differently.
“William is a fit, experienced, committed player and he made his own space in Portadown’s danger area,” he insisted.
“He was magnificent. I’m delighted at this result against a team of Portadown’s quality.
“True, we’ve had a poor start to the league, but this was more like it.
“We played well against Crusaders midweek and didn’t get the breaks. We played well today and turned it into goals.
“As for opening up the league race, it’s far too early to talk like that. It’s going to be a tight race and there are many quality sides in the league. There’s a long, long way to go.”